[ilds] lively english

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Tue Feb 1 00:13:11 PST 2011

> Perhaps the English Death is less cultural and more literary
> than we think. Larry ranted against the British literary scene
> in 1930s because he saw it as mundane, proletarian even.
> English Death may refer to the death of decent English Lit
> is his eyes - Douglas, Wilde others...silver age prose... and
> because they did not buy the budding writers style at the time.

To my mind, *this* is certainly the real meat of the matter.  Surely,
Durrell did have feelings about the English reserve or it's difference
from his Indian childhood and Mediterranean 20s (and after...).  Those
are all outlined fairly clearly in his prose.  Yet, the English scene
in his first 3 novels is rife with sexuality, venereal disease,
drinking, and a luxuriousness with art I think he associated with the
Elizabethans.  He even describes being tempted by such a scene with
Alan Thomas appearing as the devil tempting Christ.  The prudery
generalized to England certainly isn't the whole story.

Yet, the English Death persisted, and in many respects, I think it's a
way of marking his break from his literary predecessors and
contemporaries.  In the Quartet, Cavafy displaces Eliot.  In /Panic
Spring/, he draws from the High Modernists without barely a sideways
glance at Auden (whom he later comments on quite highly).  In /The
Black Book/, there's a good deal of literary ancestry being rooted
through in the family tree.  To my mind, that's where the provocative
reading will emerge -- the spiritual torpor works well enough, but how
much can really be said of it?  Durrell was part of a generation that
was bumped out by the High Modernists and the Auden Generation, and I
think that tension would have been clear in the mid 1930s.

Nice observation, David.


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